Miss Coco Peru isn’t your average drag queen. Never has been and never will be. From deep inside New York City, Miss Coco’s risen to national acclaim with her wit, charm and fabulously unique stage shows and performances.
She returns to Charlotte’s Queen City Theatre Company and the McGlohon Theatre on Dec. 6 in her latest stage production, “Ugly Coco.”
She left the Big Apple looking for fame and fortune. She says she looks back on it all and realizes just how lucky she is. She’s performed across the globe, on exclusive gay cruises, in films and on TV. She even appeared on the popular “Will & Grace.”
It wasn’t just the fame and fortune she wanted though. When she began her career, she was looking for a way to speak out; a way to make a difference — to add her voices to the countless others fighting for equality and change.
From her humble L.A. abode, Q-Notes spoke to Miss Coco Peru via phone.
First, just tell us a bit about your career — how you got started, what inspired you.
I’m originally from New York. I grew up in The Bronx. I decided sometime in the early ’90s that I wanted to be a drag queen. It was more of a desire to be an entertainer and at the same time I wanted to be an activist. I felt like at that time, AIDS was devastating New York and people were very angry and I wanted to be a part of that movement. I found myself too timid to be a part of those movements, though, and I asked myself, “What can I do?” I thought about drag as sort of a political statement about growing up gay in The Bronx. I don’t pretend to be a woman in the show. I am who I am. I talk about being a little boy and being a man. Doing it in drag gives me a voice — you never know if it is me talking or the character — and sometimes I get to say things I might not usually say. I had this vision of what I wanted it to be and it’s turned out to be exactly what I imagined.
What about Hollywood? How’s that whole “fame and fortune” thing working out for you?
I’ve been very blessed. I’ve been in a few movies. I’ve done television. Of course, you’re always thinking, “What’s next?” or “What else can I do?” When I reflect on how much I’ve done, I just feel blessed. I think when I first started doing my shows I always imagined that I’d do a lot of good things, but you never know.
I just did a show in Phoenix and people were talking about different celebrities and actors and TV shows. I thought, “I know those people they’re talking about. I’ve met them.” There are things I take for granted that are really blessings, you know?
In smaller or rural communities it seems that drag performers offer a lot of meaning to people. It means something different than in big cities — perhaps more of a way for a person to have more self-expression? L.A. is so liberal and big — what does drag mean to people there?
We have a lot of drag queens who do a lot of performances here. In smaller communities, though, I just find that the community seems closer knit and the drag queens are a bigger part of the community. They are here as well, but there’s just so much going on in big cities. I find that drag in smaller cities is taken more seriously.
How’s drag performance changed or grown since you first got in the biz?
It’s interesting because I’ve talked to other drag queens about this. People have told me in New York that the drag scene isn’t what it used be. They say I was lucky that I kind of rode out on the wave of this drag movement. There was “To Wang Foo” and RuPaul had become a big star. There was this wealth of drag queens in New York who were doing all these things, but people have said things aren’t the same now. I don’t know if it’s true — I haven’t been back to the New York scene in a while — or if it’s just those of us who are getting older are just remembering the good old days fondly and thinking that it’ll never be the same again.
It seems that a lot of drag queens today are not so much into performance, but more into just wanting fame, much like some of the girls they adore, like Paris Hilton. They just want to look very real, whereas drag used to be about clowning around and being over the top.
Tell our readers a bit about “Ugly Coco.”
Well, first off, there’s a couple reasons for the title. One being that I’d turned on the TV one night and found that one of my shows had been reworked into an episode of “Ugly Betty,” which really upset me. As Coco, I struggle with wanting to be a good person and yet finding myself dealing with my rage or saying the wrong things. It’s about finding that balance. The show’s about Coco wanting to save the world and then sort of failing then coming to terms with what what she does in the world.
It’s really hard to explain; my stories go all over the place, but at the end it all gets tied together. That’s something people can expect from my shows — the beginning and the long journey and then coming back together at the end.